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Master’s tricks for Japanese cooking

When Japanese master chef Nakamura is not rolling out sushis or teaching people how to mind their ‘sushi-etiquette’ he is playing golf. “I am addicted to golf, the way I am to sushi. Both demand precision but are utterly satisfying,” he says.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2012 00:52 IST

When Japanese master chef Nakamura is not rolling out sushis or teaching people how to mind their ‘sushi-etiquette’ he is playing golf. “I am addicted to golf, the way I am to sushi. Both demand precision but are utterly satisfying,” he says. The 64 year-old spirited chef who helms the kitchen of Pan Asian restaurant, Welcome Hotel Sheraton, trained under the Japanese royal family’s chef. Nakamura was at the Pavilion, ITC Maurya recently to showcase his sushi, sashami, tempura and yakitori (bite size skewered chicken).

Nakamura, who has lived in Delhi for a decade now, says, “Japanese has come up as a fashionable cuisine. It’s a pleasure to watch a Punjabi family devour everything from sushi to sashimi and even children handling chopstick deftly.”

But the chef dislikes people telling him they can’t get Japanese dishes right. “Cooking Japanese is no rocket science. All you need is to keep a few basics in place,” he says. That includes picking up the right knife (hocho) and cutting board (manaita). “For Japanese chefs, the knife is as important as a body part. They sharpen it themselves. Some don’t even let others use them,” he says. He also advocates using seasoning sparingly. “That’s how you keep the natural flavours intact,” he says.

Sashimi
450 gm sushi-grade tuna
1/4 inch Daikon radish
2 inch Ginger
3 tsp Sake
1/2 tsp Mirin
1/2 cup Soy sauce
11/2 tsp Dashi Granules
1. Add the mirin and the sake to a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the soy sauce, the tamari sauce and the dashi granules (these are dried bonito flakes). Mix well and let this come to room temperature.

2. Slice the daikon. Square off the daikon with a very sharp knife, then slice it into very thin sheets either with a mandoline or a knife.Now stack them and slice again into very thin sticks. Toss them all into a bowl of ice water and make sure they’re all separated.

3. Grate the ginger and then mound it into little cones. Put a cone of ginger on each plate.
4. Gently wring out and dry the daikon, then arrange some on each plate.

5. Slice the tuna. With your sharpest knife, cut the tuna into a block. You want to ultimately cut thin slices against the grain of the meat, so look for that grain as you shape the larger block (use the trim for tuna tartare, recipe below).

6. Slice the thin strips off the tuna block with your sharpest knife. Do this with one motion; start with the part of the knife's edge closest to the handle and then draw it back toward you in a smooth motion.

7. Arrange the fish on the plate over the daikon. Garnish with something green; edible crysanthemum leaves are traditional, but you could use flat-leaf parsley, very finely sliced green onion, finely sliced cucumber, etc.

8.To eat, mix a little of the ground ginger into the soy sauce, then pick up the fish with chopsticks or a fork. Drag the tuna through the dipping sauce and eat.

Eat the daikon in between bites, and finish it with the soy sauce.

Tempura
1/2 cup Tempura flour,
1/2 cup Cornstarch
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 Egg
2/3 cup Ice water
Oil for deep frying
Your choice of dippers:
(Shrimp, scallops, chunky-cut chicken and vegetables are good.)

For Frying

1. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg slightly and mix with the ice water. Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired. Stir in the dry ingredients, stirring only until mixed; the mixture will be slightly lumpy.

3. Dip shrimp, chunky-cut chicken and vegetables, etc. into the batter and deep fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. Served with soy sauce and wasabi.